Think of, say, Instagram and it’s likely that visions of really, really, ridiculously good-looking influencers sashaying around five-star resorts in revealing swimwear come to mind. So, sure, it might be feasible to use Instagram to market bikinis and resorts. But it’s obvious that Instagram could never be used to market, for instance, a cloud-based service that makes the creation and sharing of business spreadsheets more frictionless.
As it happens, Airtable has had a lot of success using (paid and organic) Instagram to market itself. Just like HubSpot has successfully used Facebook advertising. And Slack has successfully used Twitter. And Shopify has successfully used YouTube. While these may seem like big businesses with deep pockets, the point I want to drive home is that social media advertising has an important part to play in the B2B marketing ecosystem.
Businesses don’t ever sell to other businesses – they sell to the decision-makers within those businesses. Those decision-makers use social media to make purchasing decisions.
An individual may impulse purchase a pair of shoes but there aren’t many examples of the partners in an accounting firm making a quick and casual decision to invest in new accounting software. B2B buyer journeys skew long. And they’re complex, with touchpoints spanning multiple channels. That’s why it’s advisable to cover all bases, including social.
As Rocket co-founder James Lawrence has observed, “Whether you run a business or a social media marketing agency, you need to pay attention to the channels that relate to the top (awareness channel), middle (consideration channel) and bottom (purchase channel) of the funnel. You also need to cater to the multiple stakeholders involved in a purchasing decision. With B2B it can be the co-owners of a business, the partners in a firm, or the board members of a company.”
Even if two (or more) people own the same business, work in the same firm or sit on the same board, they are likely to have different buyer journeys. If they are buying an expensive good or service that will have a significant impact on the future financial viability of their business, firm or company, those journeys are likely to be extensive and filled with multiple touchpoints.
ou may be thinking that using social media to market unglamorous B2B goods and services sounds sensible in theory but is difficult to pull off in practice. Especially for SMEs that don’t have the resources behemoths such as Shopify can draw on.
This a common but mistaken belief. With a little ingenuity, any B2B product can be marketed on one or more social media platforms.
Granted, you’re not likely to get far highlighting the features of a B2B product on social. (“Check out this image of [insert B2B software]’s new dashboard, which now includes an eye-catching ‘unallocated transactions’ display!”).
But you can get results by focusing on the benefits of a B2B product. (“Check out this selfie of Brian lounging by the pool at the Bellagio after breezing through his EOFY work in half the usual time thanks to [insert B2B software].”)
Look at how Xero uses social to connect with individuals at all stages of the buyer journey funnel.
Xero might be marketing dull “number-crunching” software, but the content it puts on social media is far from soporific. On the contrary, it makes pulse-quickening promises, such as:
The spotlight isn’t on what the accounting software does. It’s on how the software will allow the user to reach for the stars, get paid faster and work more efficiently, freeing up time for more valuable or enjoyable activities.
Xero’s social media strategy is structured around offering valuable content at the top of the marketing funnel then offering its services, in the form of a free trial, at the bottom of the funnel. This is clever as jumping straight to a pure conversion or lead-generation based approach is risky. (The prospect hasn’t had time to familiarise themselves with the product, they have not been offered any value, and you’re already asking them to trust you enough to part with their money.)
A content-led social media strategy also allows a business to build retargeting lists to optimise its bottom of the funnel campaigns for increased conversions. Using the Xero example, we could populate a retargeting list with individuals who have visited either the ‘Awareness’ or the ‘Consideration’ pages then serve them the ‘free trial’ ad.
Even if you’re a professional services provider, advisory firm or law firm - you can still harness the power of LinkedIn’s incredible database of professionals with a range of ad formats to suit your message and audience.
If you’ve used Facebook or LinkedIn recently you’ll be well aware of their remarketing capabilities. YouTube also gives B2B marketers an excellent opportunity to be placed in front of their target market and drive conversions.
After talking up social, it’s important to note it’s only one piece of the puzzle. For instance, an email marketing welcome series in conjunction with relevant tripwire offers on social will often lead to more website traffic and sales than either email marketing or social media marketing in isolation. If you're wondering what pairings could work for your business, check out some of the winning combinations Rocket has devised for its clients as a social media advertising agency.